Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Less is More

Spent a few minutes yesterday building my schedule for OOW.  Lots of sessions, and unfortunately, some of the good ones are already booked.  That didn't matter, as there were plenty more to choose from.

There's not a whole lot of APEX sessions this year - or at least ones that I have not already seen.  Thus, I'm going to focus more on other database technologies, such as security & performance.  Lots of sessions under that category.

My only gripe is that the Schedule Builder UI needs a major overhaul.  First off, you need a 30" monitor just to view all of the content on one screen - especially when you have the Advanced Search option enabled.   Also, I kept getting a "Search Timeout" error when I tried to search for sessions.  The only way to resolve this is to log out and log back in again.  Such basic functionality for a database conference should NEVER break, at least in my opinion...

The Schedule Builder also tries to use a lot of Ajax-type controls; lots of popup boxes and asynchronous stuff going on.  Maybe it works better in IE, but in Safari, it's a bit clunky.

This is part of the danger of using jQuery or similar Ajax-based technologies - without thorough testing on multiple browsers, the user experience may vary greatly.  This can often be mitigated when building applications that are used internally, as most organizations can lock down which browsers are allowed.  However, this is obviously not the case on the public Internet.

While the Advanced Search is more sophisticated and allows you to search by day, for instance, there is no Google-like interface to search all fields for a specific string.  There are two text fields - Speaker/Company & Free Text - that each search different parts of the content.  But if you're searching for a string, the system will AND these two fields together, producing a different set of results than you may expect.

It seems like too much attention was paid to adding features vs. thinking of a logical design for this site.  Some common things - such as the aforementioned Google-like search, a weekly view of the agenda, and a map of where each session takes place - all seem to be left out.

Hopefully this tool will be enhanced for future events and be made simpler and better at the same time.

4 comments:

Roel said...

Why not build a cool APEX demo for this Schedule Builder and show that to the Oracle people? Must not be too hard for you ;-)
Then maybe we can use a proper working APEX version next year...
Cheers and see you in SF,
Roel
PS: Hope you added my session to your schedule as one of the few APEX sessions (and you haven't seen it yet!).

Scott said...

Roel,

It doesn't HAVE to be APEX - but I think that from Oracle, we should get something a bit more intuitive and easy to use. Oh, and once OOW starts, something that doesn't go down every 5 minutes like it has in the past.

APEX is a perfect technology for this type of application, as you can easily and quickly design most of the site, and then scale it up with RAC the week of OOW.

I wish I could make your session - because I have not yet seen it - but I'll be flying home Thursday AM. :(

- Scott -

JCFlack said...

Gee, Scott, I liked this year's schedule builder a lot better than last year's. Compare it to the Collaborate or Kaleidoscope schedule builder - those two make it easier to compare what's happening at the same time, but with so many concurrent sessions I'm constantly panning right and left. But I do admit that I had to use it on IE - my favored Firefox browser wouldn't show it.

Scott said...

JCFlack,

I don't remember much difference between this and last year's application.

While scheduling sessions is not a terribly hard task, it seems that most sites - at least in the Oracle community - do struggle with it.

I wonder if it's any easier or more intuitive for, say, Microsoft related conferences?

- Scott -